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Agricultural economist Brian Hurd and his
colleagues at Stratus Consulting in Boulder, Colo., have taken analysis of U.S. water resources to a new level. They have measured the sensitivity of each of the 204 hydrological areas in the lower 48 states to current climate conditions, an indicator of their potential vulnerability to global climate change. Their findings, summarized in the map below, are not good news for the Southwest, already famous for its long-standing water problems. Its 1996 drought, for instance, destroyed $3.6 billion in livestock and crops in Texas and Oklahoma alone. Groundwater tables in many sections have been sinking alarmingly; levels in some sections in the Great Plains Aquifer have fallen by 50 percent or more from the area's predevelopment levels. The region relies heavily on rivers and streams whose flow can vary greatly.
This article was originally published with the title In a Dry Land.